Each Veteran’s Day we pay special honor to the many members of our CPS community who’ve served in the Armed Forces. Veterans continue their service in our schools each and every day, just like 1st Sergeant Charles Powell – a retired Army veteran and current CPS teacher.
A native of Fayetteville, North Carolina, Sergeant Powell served in the U.S. Army for 24 years before becoming an educator. He was stationed at such military bases as Fort Hood and Fort McClellan, and also served over seas in Germany and Korea.
After retiring from the Army in 2004, Sergeant Powell joined the staff at Phoenix Military Academy (PMA), where he now teaches Military Science to high school juniors. He helps his students develop strong leadership and communication skills while teaching them the value of character, teamwork, discipline and commitment – all traits that he learned in the military and that will help prepare his students for success in college and career.
Read more about Sergeant Powell’s commitment to future generations below, and remember to thank the veterans in your school communities today!
Q. Why did you decide to become a teacher after retiring from the Army?
A. I served as a drill sergeant at Fort McClellan, which meant I got our new recruits as soon as they stepped off the bus. I enjoyed mentoring them and helping shape who they would be, and I wanted that experience again once I left the service. That’s why I became a teacher – so that I could continue to have an impact on young people during the most critical time of their lives.
Q. What do you enjoy most about working with youth?
A. At PMA, we are all about service. We teach our students to, as Gandhi so eloquently said, “be the change you want to see in the world”. That’s why I enjoy seeing our young people participate in service learning projects. Throughout the school year, they work with groups like the Chicago Food Depository, the Salvation Army and the Chicago Park District to feed the homeless, clean up neighborhoods, and generally lend support to the community.
Q. What is the most memorable moment from your years in the military?
A. I was fortunate to be stationed in Germany when the Berlin Wall came down. To see people flooding in from East Germany and reuniting with their families was truly amazing. I’ll never forget the look of freedom on their faces.
Q. What has been your proudest moment as a teacher?
A. There are so many. Besides being a teacher, I’m also the head football coach at PMA, and I’ve been proud to see several of my athletes go on to play in college, including one young man who is playing at West Point right now. But my proudest moment was probably when a student of mine – a young man who had always dreamed of flying military jets – was accepted into the Air Force Academy. He was the first African-American student from PMA to be granted admission to this school, and he will graduate next May. In fact, he is slated to be the commencement speaker at PMA’s 2016 graduation ceremony.
Q. How will you commemorate Veteran’s Day this year?
A. I will spend it with my wife of 30 years, who is also a U.S. Army veteran. We met and married when we were both stationed in Berlin, and will spend this Veteran’s Day visiting memorials and ceremonies around the city with our two children and four grandchildren.